Opinion: Chinatowns are messengers of Chinese culture
The Dialogue with Yang Rui
00:51

Chinese New Year is one of the most important occasions in Chinese culture celebrated by millions of people of Chinese descent or those who are interested in the culture. With its increasing global influence, Chinese New Year has become a cultural symbol that carries importance beyond family reunions.

Prof. Chang Hsin-Kang who is President-Emeritus of City University of Hong Kong pointed out that Chinese New Year is one of the most enduring festivals that are non-denominational, non-ideological and non-religious.

“It's a time not only for those traditional celebrations but also just to get together and remember China together for those diasporas in those countries,” said Hannah Wanjie Ryder, CEO of Development Reimagined.

Laurence Brahm, Documentary Film Director at Shambhala, brought up that China's traditions are maintained very well in the overseas Chinatowns. Different associations come out with traditional performances including kung-fu tea and lion dancing.

“In many ways, Chinatowns are messengers of Chinese culture across the planet,” said Brahm. “And they keep the Chinese traditions alive.”

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Brahm thinks a lot of the traditions of Chinese New Year are even better preserved and more active in overseas Chinese communities compared to cities here in China. So he raised the question of whether there will be a real revival of Chinese culture and tradition after so much of that has been forgotten over the past several decades.

He mentioned the temple fares in cultural attractions such as White Cloud Temple and Yonghe Monastery, but how much of that can really contribute to a renaissance of Chinese culture remains a question.

According to Ryder, the representation of Chinese culture in different countries is different. The development of Chinatowns is uneven across different regions, so the Spring Festival is also celebrated in embassies, Confucius Institutes, and friendship centers.

In the broader context, Prof. Chang believes with the size of the Chinese population, the length, and continuity of the Chinese culture and the content of Chinese values, Chinese culture by itself is very attractive, especially to those who are not familiar with China.

However, Prof. Chang also pointed out the asymmetry of interests, “All eastern Asians are very interested in the Europeans, but the reverse cannot be said.”

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